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Warm Weather Quilt for Family Sleeping

July 4, 2011

In response to a comment from Earl, here are some quick thoughts about our warmer weather sleeping system…

After beginning to look into ultralight backpacking, I really agreed with the logic of using a quilt over foam pads for 3 season outings.  The foam pads ($6 to $10 for the blue ones at Walmart, also shown green Army surplus) are plenty warm under you, so all you need is a covering over your top.  Applying this to the family…place several pads side by side across the floor of the tent, then cover up with a large quilt.  It just needs to be large enough to keep squirmy-sleeping kids covered.

As Earl mentions, down-filled quilts designed for camping are quite expensive, $200+.  So, a family on a budget has to look for alternatives.  First I will discuss what we currently use, then I will finish up with some other ideas for finding your own system.  Please notice that I am not talking extremely cold temperatures here.

For 55 + F degree nights under or inside a tarp or tent:

  • Mainstay brand, queen sized microfiber quilt (100% polyester fabric and fill) from Walmart.  Dark color will dry quickly in the sun, if it gets wet. (4 lb 6.9 oz  to cover all 4 of us)
  • 3 Walmart blue foam pads on the tent floor.  This is large enough for the 3 boys and I to share.  With our new sil-nylon tent floor, I have had to connect our pads with velcro computer cable organizers.

  • Wool or polyester stocking caps – long to pull down over your ears and part of your neck.  Loose fitting so they don’t itch.  These are the same hats we wear evenings and mornings or whenever it is chilly.
  • Wool socks.
  • Polyester long johns.
  • Either stuff sacks with extra clothes or inflatable pillows.  (Dollar Tree stores in our area have little, inflatable bath tub pillows that are great pillows for kids once you cut off the suction cups.)
  • Pull ups for any kids that are prone to bed wetting.

We can also get down to about 40 degrees F by adding:

  • Down filled jackets (Can be expensive unless you find a clearance sale.  We purchased the boys’ at an REI clearance for $20 each.) (1 lb 2 oz each person)
  • Polyester pants over the long johns.  (Walmart usually has athletic wind pants of 100% PET at a low price.)

Unfortunately, the Walmart quilt lost a lot of its loft when I washed it, so I guess I “got what I paid for.”


  • You and your kids will snuggle with each other for warmth.
  • Everyone can tolerate laying directly on the foam pads.  (It can be sticky where bare skin contacts the pad…another reason to sleep in long johns.)
  • If your little ones have an accident, they will have on a Pull-up.
  • If that Pull-up leaks, you and the others can deal with it.
  • Your warmest sleepers (hot natured) will sleep on the outside edges, coldest in the middle.
  • Everyone will tolerate these close quarters for the night.  (We may have a little bit of trouble settling down in really warm weather, but it usually ends up being fun.)

Other ideas and tips:

  • Watch the clearance priced bedding at stores like Ross, Marshalls and TJMaxx.
  • Look for the ideal combo of polyester shell fabrics with goose down fill, but be warned that cheap down can be VERY heavy.
  • Store your quilt and bags UN-stuffed so they retain their loft.
  • Pack your quilt or bags inside a garbage back….they must stay dry for you to sleep warm that night.
  • Make sure the quilt is large enough for everyone to stay covered.
  • Consider bargain-priced rectangular sleeping bags that can be opened up to act as a quilt.  If large enough, these will probably be warmer than bed quilts/comforters.
  • For even colder weather, three of us shared a pair of mated mummy bags.  (The middle person, me, had to deal with the cold zipper line.)
  • Higher end sleeping bags or quilts may be found at  It’s like Ebay for outdoors equipment.
  • Always try your new system out with forgiving friends on low risk trips or in the back yard.

I hope that these thoughts and pictures are helpful in finding an affordable, simple sleeping system.  As always, you are welcome to ask questions and add comments.

From → Gear

One Comment
  1. “Wal mart quilt lost most of its loft after washing”. Down anything requires extra special attention. Quilts- never wash in any machine. Fill tub/ basin with water and only special down wash, such as Nik wash or mcnetts. Gently wash, no scrunch in etc. Drain tub, fill again till water is clear. Gently knead quilt to get as much water out as poss. Lifting a water filled quilt can ruin it, water is heavy. Very low or no heat in dryer with CLEAN NEW tennis balls. Or hang in sun.

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